Horse racing has been popular in all areas of North America for many years. From the legendary Agua Caliente in Mexico to Churchill Downs in Kentucky, North American horse racing is steeped in a rich tradition. This also includes racing in Canada. The northern neighbor of the US is known for race tracks like Woodbine, and it has also produced its share of famous race horses like Northern Dancer. Here is an overview of horse racing in Canada.
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History of Horse Racing in Canada
On July 1st, 1767 the first official horse race was held in Canada. The purse value of that very first race was equivalent to $40 USD. The event was won by a mare who’s name was Modesty. It was a fitting name which matched the modest nature of horse racing in Canada at that time. Racing was not he spectacle that it was in England at the time, and there were few blue bloods in the Canadian provinces. Nevertheless, the sport was conducted according to the high standards that had been established in England for the Sport of Kings.
By 1793 horse racing in Canada had spread to Ontario, but the events were limited to unsanctioned contests between military personnel and their horses. It wouldn’t be until 1837 when a formal commission was created to oversee horse racing and organize racing meets for purse money. This club was established at Fort York.
It did not take long for the sport to catch on, and tracks began to appear in other parts of Canada. Early location included Toronto. In 1860, the famous Queen’s Plate horse race would be ran for the first time. The race is still contested today. That makes it the oldest continually-running horse racing event in North America. It predates the Kentucky Derby by several years.
Types of Horse Racing in Canada
In Canada there are two primary types of horse racing. The first of these is flat racing like most bettors are accustomed to. The second is harness racing. Both types can be found in abundance throughout the Canadian racing season, and some tracks even have both kinds of races.
Flat racing is conducted on a regular race track like you would find in the US or Australia. The track is an oval and horses run from a starting gate to the finish line. The horses that compete in this type of racing are thoroughbreds. Harness racing involves a type of horse known as a standardbred. These larger horses are tasked with pulling a rider who sits in a sulky around the track.
Harness racing is still very popular in the United States. It can also be found in a few select locations in the United States. In harness racing there are stakes races and important events just like there are in thoroughbred events.
Horse Racing Season in Canada
Just like race tracks in many other parts of the world Canada has a racing season which runs from April to December for thoroughbreds. Standardbreds are raced almost year round at race tracks in Canada. At almost any time of the year you can find horse racing action to bet on in Canada.
During the thoroughbred racing season most of the races are held on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. Harness races may be held on other days of the week. It is also common for the largest stakes races like the Queen’s Plate to be held on the weekends. This makes it possible for more people to attend the horse racing events.
A race meet is defined as the schedule of races that take place at one specific race track. For example, the Woodbine race track will conduct a race meet that consists of a set number of racing days. In most cases the local racing commissions are tasked with overseeing race dates for a meet. The commissions try to prevent one meet from overlapping with another.
The Major Race Tracks in Canada
Canada is home to a couple of important race tracks. By far the most important of these is Woodbine. The track is noteworthy for a couple of reasons. It hosts all of Canada’s biggest races. It is also the only race track in Canada that can run thoroughbred and standardbred racing on the same day. Woodbine is also the only race track outside of the US to host the annual Breeders’ Cup world championships. This happened in 1996.
Fort Erie race track is bets known for hosting the annual Prince of Wales stakes race. It is one of the most attractive race tracks in the world. The track is also old, having been built in 1897.
In addition to the thoroughbred racing tracks you will also find Woodbine Harness, Mohawk Raceway, Flamboro Downs and Western Fair Raceway. These tracks offer standardbred harness racing. There are also many smaller harness racing tracks that are spread out all over the provinces. Listing them all would be almost impossible, and many are so small that they do not merit a bettor’s consideration.
The State of Betting on Horses in Canada
It would be fair to say that Canadians like to wager on horse racing. Millions of dollars are wagered at live tracks each year as well as at online racebooks. This is impressive when you consider that horse race betting in Canada was almost eliminated in the 1980s due to falling revenues. In an effort to save horse racing in Canada the government allowed slot machines to be introduced at Canadian race tracks.
This had an immediate positive impact. The purses began to soar again, and horsemen were encouraged to race their horses once more. Betting handle also improved. In 2018, the government announced an initiative in which it would help develop the thoroughbred racing industry in Canada with over C$100 million invested per year for the next 19 years.
How to Bet Horse Racing in Canada
Race horse betting in Canada is very similar to that in the UK and Australia. There are a couple of ways to do it. The first of these is to make horse racing bets at the live track. Bettors have two options. They can bet with a bookie or they can bet with the tote board. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
Bookmakers have long been a staple of horse racing in Canada, the UK, and Australia. They are permitted to accept bets from race bettors and can also set their own odds for horses. This can be beneficial because the bettor can shop for the best odds among all the bookmakers on the track. The downside is that bookies are not stupid. They stay in business by offering odds that are in their favor in most cases.
Betting on track with the tote board can be a much more attractive option for handicappers. In this type of betting all the money wagered goes into a pool. The winners of the pool are paid from this fund, and the size of the pool determines exactly how much the odds are on each horse.
Our favorite way to bet horse racing in Canada is to use an online racebook. You will find that both Woodbine and Fort Erie are listed among the track selections at all major online racebooks. This means that you can wager on the races from home with a PC or mobile device.
When you bet the races in Canada with an online racebook you have access to the same betting menus that is offered at the track. You can make straight wagers, exotic wagers, and more with your online racebook account. Some online racebooks like Bovada will also allow you to bet with Bitcoin.